February 6th, 2014
06:38 PM ET
9 months ago

Biden: LaGuardia like a 'third world country'

(CNN) - New York's LaGuardia airport is notorious for crowded terminals and other constraints that contribute to horrid flight delays. And Vice President Joe Biden doesn't appear to be a big fan.

But New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio isn't taking Biden's comments lightly.

At an event in Philadelphia on Thursday, Biden compares the LaGuardia to a "third world country."

"If I blindfolded someone and took them at 2 o'clock in the morning into the airport in Hong Kong and said 'where do you think you are?' They would say, 'this must be America. This is a modern airport,'" Biden said. "If I took them blindfolded and took them to LaGuardia airport in New York, he would like 'I must be in some third world country.' I'm not joking."

De Blasio called the analogy "inappropriate" and said the vice president's comments were "not his finest moment."

"LaGuardia obviously needs an upgrade, but that being said the airport manages an extraordinary amount of traffic and the people work there make it work under very difficult circumstances," de Blasio said at a press conference on Friday.

"So as a proud New Yorker, I didn't like that comment, and I think it was not the right way to talk about it."

Biden's Hong Kong analogy was a novel, Bidenesque spin on a well-worn Obama administration pitch for more investment in U.S. infrastructure. But it could easily have been a plug for his favorite mode of transportation – the train.

It just so happened that he was speaking at an event to unveil Amtrak's new electric locomotive, where he praised America's only long-haul passenger railroad as vital to transportation along the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington.

Biden has been riding Amtrak forever, estimating he made 8,000 trips between his home in Wilmington, Delaware, and Washington during his years in the Senate.

"It's hard to imagine what life would be along the corridor without Amtrak. It is not hyperbole to suggest I-95 would be a parking lot."

Underscoring the need for a reinvestment in the nation's infrastructure, Biden highlighted the diminishing stature of its transportation facilities compared with those internationally.

"Just in the last decade the United States has fallen 20 spots when it comes to the quality of infrastructure in America. It's embarrassing and it's stupid. It's stupid. That puts us literally behind. They rank us behind Barbados. Great country, one airport," he said.

"Look folks, not a joke, we need to reinvest and modernize our whole infrastructure, especially in rail," he said.

Ironically, Amtrak competes with airlines that fly out of LaGuardia for business up and down the Northeast Corridor, boasting that its downtown-to-downtown services are more convenient, especially those premium-paying business travelers who – you guessed it – pack LaGuardia on a daily basis.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates LaGuardia, responded to Biden's comments.

"Significant investment in transportation infrastructure is the key to growing our economy and creating jobs, which is why the Port Authority this week proposed a 10-year $27 billion capital plan that creates more than 126,000 jobs and invests $8 billion in modernizing the region's airports," it said in a statement.

"We are fast-tracking efforts that have lagged for more than a decade and investing $3.6 billion through an innovative public-private partnership to build a new Central Terminal Building at LaGuardia Airport that will provide passengers with a world-class terminal," it said.


Filed under: Joe Biden
soundoff (749 Responses)
  1. Zooper

    A lot of excuses here and not many ideas for solutions. Making yourself feel better by actually comparing La Guardia, LAX etc to third world, or even second world airports is odd.
    The other excuse that the US airports are older than third world or some second world airports is true, but they are not older than airports in Canada, Australia, Europe, parts of Asia etc.
    I blame it on the us and them attitude that has taken over the US in the last 50 years to the point where there is no us, but a lot of them.

    February 7, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  2. Red NYer

    LAG has improved but is still bad – that is what happens when you have an airport built in the 1930 on a small piece of land and squeezed into a densly populated area. The PANY/NJ controls the 3 major NYC airports. The PANJ/NJ is a NY/NJ abomination...NY/NJ, just like crazy Joe, have been as blue states as blue states can be (with the rare exception of a governor or 2). Maybe, just maybe, Joe should look in the mirror and realize the Dems are a big part of the problem. Where has all the $ gone that the PANY/NJ has collected in tolls, fees, etc.? Overpaid union workers and their ridiculous pensions.

    February 7, 2014 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  3. Jeff

    Detroit has a beautiful airport...I don't know if that gave them brownie points in their bankruptcy proceedings.
    We need better roads, better bridges, better schools, etc. But there are competing needs that have to be weighed in every local context. I went through LaGuardia last week. Takeoff and landing in the world's busies airspace went smoothly. I found good food to eat at a reasonable price. There was free use of a tablet with internet access for hundreds of people. The restrooms were clean. The screens with flight information were spread conveniently throughout the terminal. Perhaps all that would be below standard for city slicker Biden, but I, a lowly taxpayer who helps pay for Mr. Biden's house, transportation, medical care and trips to Hong Kong, I was very satisfied.

    February 7, 2014 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  4. Jason

    Ah yes, the train. A good friend of mine was going o Albany from Niagara Falls with his wife to visit their daughter in college. He didn't want to deal with the winter weather so we started looking into the train. The trip that takes 4 hours by car takes 6.5 by train. You'll spend about $100 round trip in gas, wear and tear and tolls in the car vs $280 round trip via the train. Going by car you pick when ever you want to leave vs the train's extremely limited departure times. No wonder America has such a love affair with the car.

    February 7, 2014 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  5. Jeff

    JFK is much worse, IMO. Besides Philly and Detroit, it's the worst airport in the country and I'll never voluntarily fly through it again. On the other end of the spectrum, Tampa, Orlando and Charlotte are all awesome. And for all the traffic it gets, Atlanta handles it very well.

    February 7, 2014 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  6. J Knott

    Joe Biden is 100% correct. La Guardia is the worst airport in America. My wife and 2-year-old daughter spent the night on the floor there several years ago. No cots provided. In the middle of the night, someone stole the blanket off my daughter.

    February 7, 2014 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  7. ChadTL

    On of the bloggers I really agree with some of the nicest airports I have traveled too are not in the so called A cities. For example I flew from RDU to Las Vegas then from LAX back to RDU. Funny thing was RDU and Charlotte where the two nicest airports. RDU was doing renovations to one section to the airport to make it look better. Charlotte was amazing. Then came Las Vegas it fell off a bit they just need to do a little bit of renovation and maintenance. Last was LAX. I am sorry but really. I know California has hit hard time but wow it was by far the worse of the three and was very surprising since LA is a major city. I mean even PHL is amazingly better it is one of the nicer airports. In fact no we can't compare the two as far as major cities with over a million people. As far as La Guardia yeah its pretty, bad. Don't try to say volume there are two other airports in the area Newark and JFK. There is no excuse. New York is a major destination for the world so why aren't we putting a little pride in ourselves.

    February 7, 2014 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  8. justin

    not just la guardia, everything in nyc/nj is a wreck. commutes take way longer to get to nyc/nj vice versa, subway stations in ny are filthy, no indoor place to wait for ferries in some stations, nj govern team screwing around with gw traffic, it's just ridiculous. where does all the tax money, transit fee raises go to? im very curious. i don't expect much though. just sick and tired of stuff that's goin around here

    February 7, 2014 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  9. Nodack

    Not a fan of Bidens, but he is totally correct on this. Our infrastructure is crumbling and will take a lot of money to fix. With all the BS stupid idiotic politics going on I doubt anybody will tackle the problem in Washington or they will be called a Socialist or terrorist or whatever. Our political system has completely failed us IMO. It's no longer about doing what is right for the country and is now just a bitter fight between two sides bitterly apposing each other above all other concerns.

    We are complete fools now and both sides are equally to blame. If there was an option to fire every last person in Washington including all lobbyists I would pick that in a heart beat.

    February 7, 2014 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  10. Ted Ward

    What the??? If Biden's boss, Obama, had spent the half trillion of the so called "stimulus" on infrastructure instead of buruacracy and unemployment benefits, we'd have built incredible airports, millions of jobs, high speed transcontinental rail, a trained workforce, new schools, and possibly a moon base as well. instead, we spend billions on unemployment, lefitst liberal moonbeams and pc pixie dust all to no lasting benefit to anyone.

    February 7, 2014 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  11. Rodney

    American airports are a joke compared to Asian major airports.

    February 7, 2014 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  12. BSH

    Well, Joe, get busy. Stop spending money on stupid social engineering projects (diversity training for nurses and labeling for vending machines??), and divert the money to infrastructure.

    February 7, 2014 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  13. Ray

    Business in cahoots with government sold off our edge years ago.

    February 7, 2014 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  14. Felix Tung

    I have landed at air ports with no control towers. Small. I did no complain. What does Joe biden want, a red carpet at every airport? As long as the airport does its job, all good.

    February 7, 2014 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  15. gladiatorgrl

    I've been there it IS the third world seriously BAD!!! avoid it at all costs

    February 7, 2014 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  16. Name

    Don't care. Anybody who listens to biden needs a brain transplant

    February 7, 2014 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    The Vice President acknowledges that America is starting to look like a 3rd world country? Why oh why didn't he spit this revelation out before the 2012 election!?!? I do agree though that train transport would be awesome if it were made feasible. Build the tracks right down the middle of the Interstate medians. I travelled around Europe almost exclusively by train in the 90s and it was faster than driving and you actually didn't arrive at your destination exhausted. I'm guessing the oil companies are paying a lot of politicians to keep this "unfeasible" though.

    February 7, 2014 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  18. Charlie

    We probably should have provided the janitors with longer handles for their brooms years ago when they first asked for them; we wouldn't have these problems today if we had.

    February 7, 2014 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  19. newkirk

    well laguardia and Idlewild (JFk) were built eons ago, and many of the airports around this country and the world were designed with the mistakes and flaws of those designs in mind….. in the meantime these 2 airports service some of the heaviest air traffic in the world… so they are definitely over-utilized and under maintained….. and dirty…..and in sorry need of some major tlc. closing them down, knocking them down isn't really an option… so we have to live with them the way they are…. Dirty and disgusting and "third world"…..

    Newark is a newer airport nearby but does it run any better?

    February 7, 2014 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  20. MPOV

    Dang...improving our infrastructure at airports, bridges, roads and schools would only create jobs...and that is a (R) no-no.

    February 7, 2014 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  21. drewm1732

    lol, theres a big problem when the Vice President thinks that being in one of NY's two major airport (with security, mcdonalds, shoe shines, masseuses, ext) can be equated with the quality of life in a third world country. Half scary, half sad.

    February 7, 2014 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  22. Taylor

    I totally agree that LaGuardia is a terrible airport and needs massive renovations. But I would say the United terminal at Washington Dulles is far worse than LaGuardia. That terminal services more than half of Dulles airport and was built in the early 1980s as a temporary facility. It's awful. But represents Washington politics in a perfect time capsule. Out of date, dysfunctional and needing repairs.

    February 7, 2014 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  23. Sue

    If the airport needs an upgrade, fine – let NYC pay for it. The point here is that it's another federal tax grab so that NewYorlk can have its bills and upkeep paid for by the rest of the country, rather than shouldering the costs themselves.

    Joe Biden - looking to score some love for 2016 as the King of Pork politics ......

    February 7, 2014 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  24. Name Linda

    Travel in a motor home 4 months a year all over US and our infrastructure is in very bad shape especially roads and bridges.

    February 7, 2014 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  25. Sandy

    VP's point taken and agreed BUT... third world country???? a nice airport means it must be America??? thts just arrogant ... atlest for a VP... he could have put it better.... n not sound so pompous....

    February 7, 2014 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
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